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Three dynamic activities to motivate teenagers – Jane Godwin Coury

In a recent post about motivating teenagers, Joanna Budden, who teaches English in Spain, suggested three attitudes of a motivational teacher: authenticity; acceptance and empathy. Her findings were based on Carl Rogers’ work, who stated that that for a person to “grow”, they need an environment that provides them with genuineness (openness and self-disclosure), acceptance (being seen with unconditional positive regard), and empathy (being listened to and understood). Carl Rogers was a famous American psychologist and one of the founders of the Humanistic Approach.

Below, I would like to suggest three activities you can use with teenagers to get closer to them aiming to be a more motivational teacher. If you would like to read Joanna Budden’s ideas, please see: Motivating teenagers


Level: B1

Instructions: Tell the students a true story that happened to you when you were a teenager. Ask the students to write down as many notes as they can about your anecdote. They should write as much as possible. Choose a story that you remember. It could be funny, dangerous, serious, whatever you feel comfortable telling them. When you have finished, ask them to compare what they have written with a partner. Now read the story again and ask them to write more notes or fill in the gaps of any missing information they did not get the first time. Ask them to compare again. If necessary, read the story once more. Now each pair should get together with another pair and tell each other your story. At the end, ask them if anything like this has happened to them.


Level: A2

Instructions: When the students come to class, greet each student at the door. Check what colour eyes they have. If they have brown eyes, ask them to sit on one side of the room. If they have blue/green eyes, ask them to sit on the other side of the room. Don’t say anything about eye colour, just ask them to go to the designated place. Give one group a sweet each, but ignore the others. Engage in conversation with the former, but again ignore the latter. After some time, the students will wonder what is going on. Ask both groups how they felt about being treated like this. Ask them to guess how they were separated (eye colour). Sit round in a circle and ask them to talk about how they feel when they are not included in something like a game/party/event.


Level: B1

Instructions: Write a letter to each one of your students to get to know them better. You can start by introducing yourself and then asking some questions as below:

Dear (name of student),
Let me introduce myself. My name is (your name). I have lived in (name of town) for (number of years). In my free time, I like (say what you like doing). I enjoy sports and I play (name of sport). What about you? Please tell me some things about yourself, such as
What are the names of 3 bands you really like? Do you play a musical instrument? If so, which instrument? Do you play any sports? If so, which ones? What do you like doing most in your free time? What subject do you like best at school? Why do you like it? Which country would you most like to visit and why? Tell me about a memorable day in your life.
I hope to hear from you soon,
Best wishes.

The more we put ourselves in our students’ shoes, the more we understand their background and what makes them tick.

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